Right-wing media have consistently hyped several myths about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) during the lead up to open enrollment for state-based exchanges. As media outlets report on implementation of the health care law, they should be aware of these false claims, including zombie myths that the law includes "death panels" and that Congress is "exempt" from the law.
Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Sherman Frederick hyped two debunked myths about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including the false claim that the Cleveland Clinic is cutting costs as a direct result of the ACA and that "skinny networks" will limit access to quality care.
In his September 28 column, Frederick claimed the truth about the ACA was revealed when Eileen Sheil, corporate communications director for the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, said that the clinic would be cutting its budget and making other employment decisions due to the law. The column continued:
Ms. Sheil announced that in order to prepare for Obamacare, the Cleveland Clinic, one of the world's best health care providers, would slash up to 6 percent of its 2014 budget, put some 3,000 employees into early retirement, hold positions vacant longer and, if necessary, lay off employees.
Let that sink in. Just like that, the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic brought to bended knee by Obamacare. If this law can do that to one of our best medical institutions, what's going to happen to the quality of our local hospitals? How will isolated, rural facilities cope?
The problem with Frederick's assertion is that it's not true. The Atlantic reached out to Sheil who "seemed a bit confused by the emphasis on Obamacare in reports" and explained that the clinic had been "working on reducing costs for years" in order to remain viable, and the ACA was just the catalyst to implement those decisions. Fox News' Greta Van Susteren also debunked this myth when she backpedaled on initial Fox reports after speaking with Toby Cosgrove, CEO of the clinic.
Anti-Affordable Care Act (ACA) group Generation Opportunity placed a misinformed op-ed aimed at Millennials in at least a half dozen local papers in an effort to prevent younger Americans from enrolling in the Affordable Care Act 's individual exchanges.
Generation Opportunity's op-ed ran in at least a half-dozen newspapers over the weekend of September 28, including in Nevada's Las Vegas Review-Journal and Florida's Sun-Sentinel. The piece was authored by former unsuccessful Congressional candidate from Pennsylvania and president of Generation Opportunity -- a Koch-brothers backed anti-Affordable Care Act group -- Evan Feinberg. The editorial attempted to frame the ACA as a "bad deal for young people" and urged them to "opt out" by claiming it will cost them a lot of money and that it "relies on a system of generational redistribution":
Apparently they think Millennials are gullible. But no veneer of popularity can mask the exchange system's deep problems. The simple fact is that they are a bad deal for young people. And as a result, it makes more financial sense for Millennials to opt out and purchase a non-Obamacare policy on the private market.
The most obvious problem with the exchange system is how it perversely relies on a system of generational redistribution. Quite simply, the law takes from the young to subsidize the old. That's why the White House is so dead-set on getting young people to sign up -- without our money, the system won't work, and the exchanges will enter what has been called a "death spiral."
Despite conservatives' constant attempt to turn young people away from the ACA, many Millennials are able to understand that having health insurance can save thousands of dollars in cases of serious injury or illness and that gaining coverage through the exchanges, employer benefits, or through private plans also allows them to access affordable prescriptions, and afford preventive care which can help prevent minor issues from becoming major health concerns.
Feinberg clearly recognizes the benefits of health coverage, as he suggests that young people "opt out and purchase a non-Obamacare policy on the private market." However, Feinberg leaves out the important detail that federal tax credits, often referred to as subsidies, are only available through the exchanges and are designed to make coverage affordable. Suggesting young people "opt out" and buy coverage through a private plan adds up to telling Millennials to pay more for private coverage that must meet identical standards as the plans offered on exchanges.
A local North Carolina newspaper published several incorrect statements and left out important details in a piece on the Affordable Care Act, including blaming the health care law for job losses, which were actually caused by Republican obstructionism, and providing misleading information about who is eligible for federal subsidies.
Time Warner's Charlotte News 14 omitted critical information about health care premium prices in a report leading up to state-based insurance exchanges opening on October 1 by only reporting average premium prices while omitting the subsidized prices many North Carolina residents would receive under the Affordable Care Act.
The September 25 report relied on data from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which listed average subsidized prices for North Carolina residents:
New estimates show people in North Carolina who shop for health insurance coverage on the federally run, online marketplace could pay more and have fewer choices than the national average.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said premiums for a mid-range plan sold on the health exchange will be $379/month on average. The average cost for that same plan across 48 states will be $328 when the new health insurance markets start.
The figures provided by News 14 represents unsubsidized averages of all people under age 65 but does not tell the entire story for many North Carolina residents. A report by Families USA found that, if Medicaid had been expanded in North Carolina, 868,520 residents would be eligible for tax credits under the exchanges. Yet, as Kathleen Stoll, director of health policy for Families USA explained, this figure is a low estimate because the report assumed the state would expand Medicaid.
The New Hampshire Union Leader exaggerated reports concerning the narrow insurance networks soon to be available on the state's health care exchange as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by claiming residents of New Hampshire will have their "health care choices constrained by Obamacare." In fact, narrow insurance networks are not a new concept and allow insurance companies to create plans that are more affordable and accessible to low-income citizens.
Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau fabricated a quote attributed to the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) to attack Medicaid expansion in the state while peddling other anti-expansion myths.
The Richmond-Times Dispatch hyped a concern that "nobody will check" to ensure that people who request subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are actually qualified to do so, despite several safeguards and penalties in place designed to prevent fraud.
Right-wing organization Media Trackers Florida called support for Medicaid expansion "leftist Florida advocacy" by hyping misleading claims about the cost of expansion. However, the cost estimate used by Media Trackers failed to take into account millions of dollars in savings while insuring almost one million Floridians.
A Pittsburgh Tribune-Review editorial mischaracterized Common Core education standards as "central planning," claiming that "a bureaucracy far removed from any school district" would now control local education. In fact, the standards were developed by states with input from local schools; moreover, no school is required to adopt them.
Florida Watchdog.org, an offshoot of the Koch brothers-funded Watchdog.org, parroted right-wing media claims that Congress is receiving an "exemption" from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by receiving a "special subsidy" from the government for its health insurance. However, this zombie lie is not based in fact and is due to a Republican effort to politicize the implementation of the law.
Five years after the collapse and bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, media are turning a blind eye to persistent economic inequality and poverty, and whitewashing the effects of austerity on preventing economic growth.
September 15 marked the fifth anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the investment bank whose bankruptcy set off a global financial crash and dramatically accelerated a recession that began in the United States in December 2007. For nearly two years, the American and global economies were marked with enormous job loss, a collapse of housing and investment values, and the looming prospect of economic depression. Five years later the economy has yet to fully recover.
In the past five years, in large part thanks to unprecedented government intervention, financial markets have more than recovered from the 2008-2009 collapse. Since bottoming out on March 9, 2009, investment markets are up across-the-board. The Dow Jones industrial average crossed the 15,000 point threshold on May 7 for the first time ever and currently sits near its all-time high set on August 2. The other major indices are doing just as well. The S&P 500 crossed the 1,700 point threshold on August 2, when the NASDAQ also set a new 13-year high.
Corporate profits have ballooned along with the soaring stock market. CNNMoney reported in December 2012 that quarterly corporate profits set a new record, but it also noted that workers' wages had "fallen to their lowest-ever share of GDP." When Business Insider reported on the same phenomenon in April, profitability had continued to rise as wages continued to fall. Wage growth has largely been captured by the highest earners.
The top end of the economy has recovered from the collapse and recession, but other indicators remain stuck. Stagnant and falling wages contribute to growing economic inequality and diminish the purchasing power of the American consumer economy. The Economic Policy Institute detailed the effect that a decade of wage stagnation has had on the shrinking middle class and swollen ranks of working poor.
Unemployment, while falling, remains a drag on economic growth and has remained higher than pre-recession levels thanks largely to policy decisions in Washington.
Economist Jared Bernstein notes that poverty rates have barely fallen since the end of the recession, yet another indication that the growth seen over the past several years is not reaching the broader economy.
The economy is growing, but media have done a poor job acknowledging the causes and symptoms of lingering structural inequality. Five years after the Lehman Brothers collapse, media have been complicit in exacerbating structural inequalities by failing to cover the issues or grant a voice to groups that continued be to economically disadvantaged.
The North Carolina-based Civitas Institute published a piece on its blog attacking the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by criticizing the number of people who will remain uninsured after the law goes into full effect and urging Congress to cut off funding for the law. However, Civitas, which belongs to a right-wing network with ties to the Koch brothers, ignored necessary context in order to further its misleading narrative.
The New Hampshire Union Leader ran a story promoting the conservative organization Americans For Prosperity's (AFP) misinformation campaign against the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without mentioning major factual concerns with AFP's campaign.
The September 10 news story highlighted JustExemptMe.com, which is a website run by Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire (AFP-NH) to allow New Hampshire residents to sign a petition asking to be exempted from provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The article pushed the myth that Congress is exempt from the Affordable Care Act while only citing the state director of AFP-NH as a source for the piece:
AFP-NH said the administration has given exemptions to numerous groups, including members of Congress, labor unions and employers in House Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi's congressional district.
"When the unions came to the President to ask for an exemption from ObamaCare, he gave it to them," said Greg Moore, AFP-NH state director.
"When members of Congress said they needed a subsidy, he gave them one. When big insurance companies said they needed relief from a cap in out-of-pocket costs in ObamaCare, the President obliged.
The Union-Leader article is just a reformatted version of a press release issued on September 10 by Americans for Prosperity. Yet by repeating those talking points in its news section, the paper legitimizes the message of an indefensible organization that has a partisan agenda, and aids its campaign to manipulate politicians and media coverage of the ACA.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch published an editorial dismissing the alleged "fear and disinformation" surrounding hydraulic fracturing to claim it is "not so toxic," but admitted the process is not safe enough for Virginia.
The September 11 editorial attacked opponents of hydraulic fracturing -- also known as fracking - claiming that they "have waged a campaign of fear and disinformation" about the process, which is "not so toxic as its foes make it out to be."
But the Times-Dispatch quickly pivoted to denounce fracking in Virginia's George Washington National Forest, which provides drinking water to millions of people. As the editorial explains, it's still a process "that uses strong chemicals and relies on heavy machinery," which is "a lot to introduce to a largely pristine landscape":
The U.S. Forest Service is completing a 15-year management plan and soon will decide whether to permit fracking in George Washington. While fracking is not so toxic as its foes make it out to be, it remains an industrial process -- one that uses strong chemicals and relies on heavy machinery. That is a lot to introduce to a largely pristine landscape.
Granted, the federal government owns far too much real estate -- particularly out west. Public lands should not be categorically sealed off from private use. The George Washington Natural Forest, however, is not just any old lump of real estate. It is a treasure that merits close guarding.
The Times-Dispatch's NIMBYism is clearly concerning. It is understandable that the editorial board would not want to contaminate the drinking water and decimate the beauty of Virginia's natural landscape, but it is unclear why it is willing to tolerate such damage in another state. The Times-Dispatch's reasoning that public lands should be targeted because "the federal government owns too much real estate - particularly out west" is misleading, as approximately 3,400 wells, or about 90 percent of those drilled on Federal and Indian lands, are already "stimulated using hydraulic fracturing techniques."